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I know of four methods for gear / clothing on character models (game and/or CGI).
1. Painted skin - The character model is organized in material zones. Each zone has a default base texture. As gear changes, the engine overrides the base texture with a texture for the gear. For example the chest armor texture replaces base, so it looks like the character is wearing armor. This is strictly a 2D texture swap with no additional geometry other than character body.
2. Mount point gear models - The character model is rigged with mount points, for example at the shoulders. The engine loads a new mesh for the shoulder model mounted on the appropriate shoulder mount point. There may be texture overrides, or the shoulder might load with its own base texture. The shoulder model itself does not animate. Rather it remains on the shoulder mount point, which does include animation to move it with character movements.
3. Conforming clothing - As seen in Poser and similar consumer level CGI. Clothing is it's own mesh driving by skeleton rigging that is identical to that of the character mesh. The engine places character model at a given transform, orientation, and animation frame (pose). The engine then places the conforming clothing at the identical pose, making it look like the clothing is being "worn" by the character. Z-buffer filtering resolves visibility.
4. Mesh Hiding Clothing - Every character includes mesh for all clothing items in-game. These are typically huge as there are several pieces of clothing. Engine turns all the mesh hiding clothing "off" (not rendered), except that which is being worn at the moment. The worn clothing has textures applied based on the gear that is being represented. All clothing is rigged as part of the character an animates appropriately (some gear may also have rigging used only by that gear such as bones driving capes).
I've used painted and mount point gear in my own MMO work, and can spot it. From what I've seen of newer games, there is definitely more involved.
So... Fancy gear. How the heck are they doing it?
Ken Fisher - Semi retired old fart Network Administrator, now working in Network Security. I don't Forum PVP. If you feel I've attacked you, it was probably by accident. When I don't understand, I ask. Such is not intended as criticism.